January 2015 — PlantOGram

January 30, 2015

The akee, found in Jamaica, is a relative of the lychee tree. Akee is a tropical evergreen tree that usually grows about 30 feet tall. Its leaves have a leathery texture and white flowers. The akee fruit is shaped like a pear and is bright red to yellow-orange. When it is ripe it splits open to reveal three large black seeds. Surrounding these seeds is soft, creamy white or yellow flesh.

The actual fruit of the akee is not edible. It is only the fleshy arils surrounding the seeds that are edible. The rest of the fruit, including the seeds, are poisonous. Be sure to pick the fruit only after it has opened naturally and when it is fresh. Immature and overripe akee are poisonous also.

In the past 70 years, many studies have been conducted to determine what makes the akee so toxic. It has been determined that the unripe arils contain a toxic property that is dispelled once the fruit opens and is exposed to light. Even when fully ripe, the arils still possess 1/12 of the toxins of an unripe akee. Symptoms of akee poisoning include vomiting without diarrhea followed by drowsiness, convulsions, coma, and sometimes death. However treatment with sugar solutions has been found helpful because of the poison’s hypoglycemic effects.

That is not to say you should steer completely clear of the akee. The part you do eat, the arils, are soft and delicate. They taste similar to scrambled eggs. Akee is truly a symbol of Jamaican culture. Salt Cod and Akee is the national dish of Jamaica. The salt cod is sautéed with akee, pork fat, onions, peppers, tomatoes, and herbs, and garnished with crisp bacon and fresh tomatoes.

Image courtesy of http://www.jamaicatravelforum.com/ackee-in-jamaica

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January 30, 2015

We all know fruit is healthy for you. We’ve heard it since we were kids. But with our crazy schedules, we don’t always have the time to eat healthy. Grabbing something quickly is sometimes the only option. So here’s how you can work some quick healthy fruit into your crazy schedule.

 At breakfast:

  1. Try stirring in some berries, either fresh or frozen, into yogurt, cereal, or oatmeal. It only takes a few seconds more and is a serving of fruit right at the beginning of the day. You can also try stirring in dried fruit or banana slices.
  2. Add blueberries or strawberries to your pancakes.
  3. Drink 100% orange or grapefruit juice.
  4. Just grab a fruit! If you don’t have time for a full breakfast, grabbing a whole piece of fruit is a quick substitute. Grab an apple, banana, or orange, and eat it on the way.

For Snacks:

  1. Keep fruit handy for a quick snack. Have a bowl of fresh fruit on the counter at home or on your desk.
  2. Carry dried fruit in your purse or car for those times when you just don’t have time for anything else. ¼ cup of dried fruit is equal to ½ of other fruits. Some fruits that are commonly available dried are apricots, apples, pineapples, bananas, cherries, figs, dates, cranberries, blueberries, prunes, and raisins.
  3. Pack pre-cut fruit into snack size bags. Keep them in the fridge for easy access.
  4. Purchase individual containers of fruits such as applesauce, peaches, or pineapple.

For Lunch/Dinner:

  1. Add fruit to a tossed salad. Try orange sections or grapes.
  2. A touch of lemon juice on seafood is another way to get a taste of fruit.

 For Dessert:

  1. If you’re eating ice cream or frozen yogurt ad ½ of fresh peaches, mangos, or berries to squeeze in another serving of fruit.
  2. Try baked apples, pears, or a fruit salad.

Images courtesy of zole4 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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January 30, 2015

That’s right. A breadfruit. It’s native to Tahiti and was introduced to Jamaica in 1793 by Captain Bligh. So why are the Jamaicans keeping all these great fruits to themselves? Granted, the breadfruit is tropical and can’t be grown in the majority of the US, but we could at least know about it, right?

The breadfruit is a large green fruit, usually around 10 breadfruitinches in diameter. It has a pebbly green skin and flesh with a potato like texture. Breadfruit is picked and eaten before it ripens. Most varieties can cause severe stomach upset if eaten raw. A common practice is to boil them twice and throw the water away to avoid any issues from the fruit. However, they can be used in place of any of your starchy vegetables, rice, or pasta. And breadfruit is pretty versatile. It can be cooked and served in a number of ways. It’s not uncommon for it to turn up in preserves or beverages.

But why call it a breadfruit? It tastes doughy like bread, but has more moisture. There are both seeded and seedless varieties. The seedless breadfruit is low in protein, but the seeds are considerably higher and therefore of more value as food.

The breadfruit tree can grow up to 85 feet tall. These trees require temperatures between 60° to 100°F, annual rainfall of 80-100 inches, and relative humidity of 70-80%. This is the main reasBreadfruit treeon why we rarely see breadfruit in the US. Generally the rind of the fruit is green at first, then turning a yellowish-green, yellow or yellow-brown when ripe, although there is one variety that is lavender. When it is green the fruit is hard with a white, starchy and fibrous interior. When the fruit is fully ripe, it becomes somewhat soft with a cream or yellow, pasty interior. It also has a slightly sweet fragrance.

Small drops of latex appear on the surface of the fruit when it is mature. Similar to a banana or plantain, the breadfruit can be eaten ripe as a fruit or under ripe as a vegetable. Soft or overripe breadfruit is used to make chips. These are currently being manufactured in Trinidad and Barbados. In some areas, such as Jamaica, Puerto Rico, and the South Pacific, fallen male flower spikes are boiled, peeled, and then eaten as vegetables. They can also be candied by recooking them in syrup and then rolled in powdered sugar and sundried.

Dried breadfruit has been made into flour. It is being explored as to whether it is a viable option to substitute breadfruit in part for wheat flour in bread making. The combination of the two proves more nutritious than wheat flour alone. Breadfruit flour is richer in lysine and other amino acids than wheat flour. In Jamaica, breadfruit flour is boiled and sweetened and then eaten as porridge.

Breadfruit has some other uses as well. Its leaves are commonly eaten by livestock such as cattle, goats, horses, and pigs. The latex, after being boiled with coconut oil, is used for caulking boats. It can also be mixed with colored earth and used as a paint for boats. The wood of the tree is light in weight but strong, elastic, and resistant to termites. Therefore, it makes it a good wood to be used in construction and for furniture. It is also quite in demand for surfboards. Traditional Hawaiian drums are even made out of breadfruit trunks.

Perhaps most interestingly, the breadfruit also has a number of medicinal uses. In some areas, such as Trinidad and the Bahamas, the breadfruit leaves are believed to lower blood pressure. Some also say they can relieve asthma. Leaves can be crushed and applied to the tongue as a treatment for thrush. So did we really just get rid of beta-blockers, inhalers, and the need for antibiotics to cure thrush because of a fruit? Seems a lot easier, doesn’t it?

The leaf juice is even employed as ear-drops and skin infections can be treated with ashes of burned leaves. A powder of the roasted leaves is used as a remedy for an enlarged spleen. So a powder from a fruit or risk a surgery? Hardly seems like choice to me. Some even say that the leaves can be used as a remedy for headaches. And if you’re like me and you get chronic headaches and migraines, you’d try just about anything to help them. Toasted flowers are rubbed on the gums near an aching tooth. This sounds so easy! The latex is used on skin diseases and is bandaged on the spine to relieve sciatica. And finally, diluted latex is taken internally to overcome diarrhea.

I’m a skeptic myself, so until I try these I’m not sure I believe them either. But even if only half of them worked, wouldn’t it be amazing?

Images courtesy of Jamaican-Recipes.com & CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], via Wikimedia Commons

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January 30, 2015

There are plenty of us out there who don’t like fruit. Or at least, not enough to eat it regularly. But we really need to start thinking about eating healthy. And here’s some ideas for those of us who are a little pickier than others. I myself am the pickiest eater I’ve ever met, and even I have found a few fruits I like. But it did take some searching.

Go for convenience. Try buying pre-cut fruit or individual serving packages. They’re easier to grab on the go. When you do this, steer clear of fruits with added sugars. If you’re choking down the fruit you may as well make it worth it, right?

Get the kids involved. Most kids will resist eating fruit. But you can make them part of the process and hopefully encourage them to eat some fruit. Take them shopping with you. Offer them a choice of fruits and let them decide which one they’d like. You can also decorate their plates with fruit slices. Even try making a smiley face with sliced banana eyes, a raisin nose, and an orange slice for a mouth! And if they’re really against fruit, cut up some berries and use it as a topping on ice cream or frozen yogurt.

Learn what to buy. Be sure to buy fresh fruits when they’re in season. This is when they’re usually less expensive and at their peak flavor. Also stock up on dried, frozen, and canned fruits (in water or 100% juice rather than syrup) so there’s always a supply in your pantry. While fruit juices are beneficial, whole or cut-up fruit is more nutritious.

TIP: Vary your fruit choices. Fruits have different nutrient content. Bananas are high in potassium while pomegranates are high in antioxidants. Make many fruits a part of your diet to benefit from their healthy qualities.

Make substitutions. Swap out your afternoon soda for ½ a cup of 100% juice. It’ll get you an extra serving of fruit. And if you’re really dependent on your caffeine, start by adding the fruit juice rather than just substituting. And those times you hear “Mom, I’m hungry” is a perfect opportunity to offer your kids raisins or other types of dried fruit instead of candies. Also pack a juice box in your child’s lunch instead of soda.

Eat more colors. This is an easy way to remember to eat healthy. Fruits are colorful, so just remind yourself and your kids to add color to their diet. Red can be apples or strawberries. Orange is rather obvious! Yellow could be lemons, bananas, or apples. Green is apples again as well as grapes and avocadoes. Blueberries come next. Purple grapes and raspberries round out the rainbow. This is just the beginning of adding color. Papayas, pomegranates, grapefruit, melons, pineapples, pears, and other berries are great options as well.

Add a fruit tree in the back yard. Okay, maybe we're biased, but how can you resist fresh fruit right at your fingertips?

Watch out for How to Get Picky Eaters to Eat Fruit Part 2 coming on Monday!

Image courtesy of Camille Wellard at http://www.makoodle.com/rainbow-fruit-tray/

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January 30, 2015

Guava Cheese Turnovers (Guava Pastelillos)

Total Time:
55 min
20 min
15 min
20 min
Yield:8 servings Level: Easy

1 (1-pound) package frozen puff pastry, thawed
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, cut into 8 equal pieces
8 (1 by 1-inch) squares guava paste (about 4 ounces)
1 egg, beaten with 1 teaspoon water
1/4 cup confectioners' sugar
1 teaspoon milk
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Sprinkle the sugar on your work surface to prevent the dough from sticking. Roll out each sheet of puff pastry to an 8 by 8-inch square. Using a pizza cutter or sharp knife, cut each sheet into 4 squares.

Make the turnovers: Set a pastry square in front of you with 1 of the corners pointing toward you. Place 1 piece of cream cheese diagonally over the center of the bottom of the square. Top with a piece of guava paste. Brush the edges of the square with beaten egg. Fold the upper half of the square over the filling to make a neat triangle. Crimp the edges with a fork. Repeat with the remaining turnovers, placing them on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet as you go.

Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown and puffy.

While the turnovers are baking, mix the confectioners' sugar with the milk and vanilla, stirring to dissolve any lumps. Set aside.

Cool the turnovers on a rack for 10 to 15 minutes, then drizzle the glaze over them. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Recipe courtesy Daisy Martinez via Food Network

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January 30, 2015

So now you’ve taken the first step. You’ve bought your fruit at the grocery store. But the hard part’s coming up. Now you have to eat it. So…how can we make it a little more appetizing than sucking on a lemon?

Here’s a few snack recipes and tips.

Make Chips:

You can slice up moderately ripe bananas (or plantains) and either slow roast or lightly sauté them. They’ll have a crispy exterior and fruity flavor. If you don’t like the texture of fruit, this is a great way around that.

Frozen Fruit:ID-10031534

Put bananas and grapes into the freezer. It’ll change the texture but keep the flavor and nutrients.

TIP: If you have a girl who loves Frozen, get some Anna and Elsa plates, and have a themed snack time. Some powdered sugar from a sifter could work wonders for this.

If you’re still not thrilled with the taste, dip them in some dark chocolate. That too is rich in antioxidants. And even the pickiest eaters love chocolate!

Popsicles and Smoothies:

Blend fresh fruit with ½ cup of yogurt or 100% fruit juice. Pour them in a popsicle mold and freeze them. Another option would be to just buy frozen juice bars. Or, to make a smoothie, blend fat-free or low-fat milk or yogurt with fresh or frozen fruit of your choice. Some popular fruit smoothie flavors are banana, peach, strawberry, and other berries.

Fruit Kabobs:fruit kabobs

Make fruit kabobs with fruits like pineapple, bananas, grapes, berries and peaches. This is a great addition to a barbeque meal. Go for strawberries and blueberries for a Fourth of July barbeque.

Dinner Time:

Add crushed pineapple to coleslaw. Also try some meat dishes that incorporate fruit. Some great ones are chicken with apricots or mangoes.

Dip ‘Em:

Sometimes a fruit just needs a little extra flavor. Try fat-free or low-fat yogurt as a dip for fruits like strawberries or melons. Or, try the strawberry cream cheese fruit dip. To make it, just mix an 8 oz. package of strawberry flavored cream cheese and a 7 oz. container of marshmallow fluff. Chill it before serving. It’s always a big hit. Maybe not as healthy as the fat-free yogurt, but if you’re picky…you gotta eat, right?


Make a Waldorf salad (choose your favorite recipe) and include fruits like apples along with celery, walnuts, and a low-calorie dressing. And of course the old standby, a fruit salad. Mix apples, bananas, or pears with more acidic fruits. These would be your citrus fruits like oranges, pineapples or lemon juice to keep them from turning brown.

Fruit Pizza: fruit pizza

Again, not the healthiest food choice, but it sure has enough fruit. Bake a large sugar cookie (the size of a cookie cake). Cover it with cream cheese. Then lay out sliced fruit on top of the “frosting.” Some good choices are strawberries, kiwis, melons, pineapples, grapes, and other berries. You can place the fruits randomly or in a pattern. Here’s your chance to get creative. It’s a great dessert alternative.

Fruit Pie:

We all love a good slice of pie, but we have to be healthy these days. So, we get rid of that buttery crust. Place the filling for your favorite fruit pie in individual ramekins. Bake them until they set and enjoy your fruit pie without the fattening crust.

Quick Snacks:

  • Spread peanut butter on apple slices.
  • Top plain yogurt with berries or slices of kiwi.
  • Slice up strawberries and dip them in powdered sugar (my personal favorite).

Images courtesy of Stoonn at FreeDigitalPhotos.net, http://texasfarmersdaughter.com/rainbow-fruit-kabobs/, and http://www.chef-in-training.com/2011/08/fruit-pizza-2/

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January 20, 2015

In the 1800s Johnny Appleseed used fruit trees to discover gravity. What can they do for you in 2015?

 Organic Fruit Benefits

Having a fruit tree right in your backyard will provide you with your own supply of fresh organic fruit. Organic foods are up to 50% higher in antioxidants which can reduce the risk of cancer and heart disease. They are also lower in toxins and pesticides than regular food, and richer in vitamins and minerals including iron and zinc.

The only downside is that organic fruit seems to spoil faster than the produce we buy from the normal supermarket (although having it in our backyard it much cheaper than having to buy it). But that only seems like a downside until you learn why. Most fruits in the supermarket are irradiated. This kills bacteria and extends the life of the food. Irradiation methods actually use radioactive substances or high energy electrons or x-rays. That certainly doesn’t sound appetizing to me.

Research from Newcastle University suggests that with all these benefits taken into consideration, choosing organic fruit over regular fruit may be the equivalent of adding up two servings of fruit to your daily diet.

Make Money

It’s pretty obvious that being able to run to the backyard to get your fruit is cheaper (and easier) than going to the grocery store, but that’s not the only way your very own fruit tree can make you money.

A fruit tree can add value to your home. It adds value because in addition to providing fruit, the tree flowers during the spring adding ornamental value. It can also help with privacy, something many home buyers are looking for. It can be a barrier to busy roads, unsightly views, or anything else that needs to be blocked. Instead of that ugly fence the neighbor put up, your mango tree looks beautiful all year round!

If you’re not moving any time soon, your fruit tree can cut your energy costs considerably. If placed properly, a tree can cut summer air-conditioning costs by up to 15%. Also, it can provide partial shade for plants and grass nearby. This will cut down on watering costs.

Environmental Benefits

Since we’ve reduced the amount of energy required for cooling our house, we have also reduced the amount of carbon dioxide and other emissions from power plants.

The burning of fossil fuels is considered to be a major cause of global warming. Carbon dioxide is one of these fossil fuels. You can easily do your part by planting a fruit tree. The tree actually needs carbon dioxide to survive. They essentially clean the air by absorbing the carbon dioxide and releasing fresh oxygen back into the air.

Trees can also help prevent erosion and runoff if placed on or near hills. They can also reduce runoff because they break the rainfall. The water flows down the trunk and into the soil. This in turn prevents the storm water from carrying pollutants into the ocean.

And of course the fruit tree can provide a new habitat for birds and bees. The fruit it yields will also feed birds and wildlife.

Health Benefits

We know the fruit is healthier than regular store bought fruit. But what about health benefits of having the tree itself?

Trees can shield children from ultra-violet rays. With the amount of time children spend outside, preventing skin cancer is an important consideration. Children with ADHD even exhibit less symptoms when consistently exposed to nature.

Also, studies have shown that patients heal faster when they can see trees outside their window. Imagine if there was a beautiful fruit tree in your backyard! And don’t forget, the improved air quality is important for everyone’s respiratory health. Something to consider if you or someone in your family suffers from seasonal allergies or asthma.

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January 14, 2015

Pineapple, Orange and Grapefruit Juice


  • 1/4 large pineapple, peeled
  • 1 large orange, peeled
  • 1/2 large grapefruit, peeled


  1. Cut pineapple, orange and grapefruit as needed to fit through the chute of the juice extractor.
  2. Juice the ingredients in the order listed.
  3. Stir and serve immediately.

Serves: 1-2

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January 14, 2015

To make sure that you get a good crop this year you will need a little chill for those fruit trees!

If you are planning on purchasing fruit trees like apples, pears, plums and peaches you will have to make sure that these varieties of fruit get some kind of chill hours. This is a number that you will need to make sure that you know when purchasing fruit trees. The required temperatures are between 32-45 degrees for many hours of winter.

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January 14, 2015

This is a question we get a lot of " When am I suppose to prune my fruit trees?"

 Pruning initially is like giving your fruit tree a healthy hair cut! By cutting or trimming away excessive over growth of branches you are enabling the production and quality of the fruit. The tree is also a lot healthier making it easier to resist the damage caused by drought, weather, insects and disease. It also also enables the structure of the tree to set fruit and be able to bear the weight of a heavy crop.

The best time to prune is pretty much any time. But for fruit trees it's best to prune them when they are dormant. For some of the cold hardy trees you might want to wait when the coldest weather has passed as newly cut ends can be damaged by a sudden cold snap.

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